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With wooden structures being ravaged by time and nature and with many buddist temples being destroyed during the various wars and purges that have plauged Korea's history it is the tombs which leave us the best picture of Korean Life during the Three Kindoms Period.

The Koguryo tombs, due to their raised nature, offer the best architectural examples. There are thousands of Koguryo tombs left standing with their defensive walls, foundation stones, pavilions, and gates. However due to the overt nature of these tombs they were subject to robbery and plunder, therefore they do not contain the treasures of the buried tombs of Paekche and Silla. However, these tombs are known for their painted murals that show the customs and artistic achievements of early Korean societies. Wall paintings are the earliest examples of these works. The subjects varied from portrayals of the deceased and his retainers, a life history, social customs to animals, constellations, lotus plants, clouds to floral patterns and geometric designs. The size of figures on Koguryo tombs reflected the relative importance to other painted figures.

The tombs of Silla and Paekche feature less artistic work (with some notable exceptions, the ceiling paintings in a few of the Paekche tombs give a clear picture of the Korean landscape during th Three Kingdoms Period). However these tombs do provide us with artifacts essential to building a picture of Korean life during the Three Kingdoms Period. Most items placed into the tombs with the deceased was of a valuable nature, many gold, gilt bronze and silver artifacts have been discovered. The skill of the artisans of Silla is best shown in the crowns found in the tombs of the Three Kingdoms Period's aristocracy. Elaborate works of gold and bronze, with antler, bird wing and tree-branch adornments have been found with a style that is uniquely Korean. Earrings are the most common treasures found in the tombs, often multiple pairs per tomb, giving the impression that one was buried with all of their earring possesions. The earring form was of a ring, to clip on the ear, attached to a decorative pendant. There were silver and gold bracelets with dragon decorations. The gold one went on the right arm and the silver on the left. The abundance of jewelry is common in the tombs of both male and female deceased, only the presence of a sword denotes a male presence. Other objects left in the tombs included harnesses with bronze stirrups, bells, ornaments, and iron kettles similar to Japanese pottery kettles in design. One of the most interesting artifacts every found in a tomb were some glass cups of distinctive Roman origin. How they got to Korea remains a mystery.

Credit due to the USC Berkley Korean History Project and the Lee Family of Philedelphia, PA

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